BLOG

So Much Talking

Today, John Hilgart of 4CP is here with a review of Blake Bell and Dr. Michael Vassallo’s Secret History of Marvel Comics, which looks both fascinating and strange. Here’s an excerpt:

Fate introduced a wildcard: Certain comic book creations became national and global myth- and cash-machines, something no one could have anticipated, least of all Martin Goodman. Captain America was just a wartime knock-off of The Shield (the original patriotic comic book superhero), with Goodman bowing to legal pressure from his former co-worker (now competitor) to change Cap’s shield to a different shape. The Human Torch and The Submariner were both accidental Goodman purchases, when he requisitioned content from a third party vendor, due to the popularity of comic books (See Marvel Comics #1).

Yes, Jack Kirby and others turned out to be the Toulouse Lautrecs of their day, undervalued and underpaid. They got shafted by their own youthful engagement with the work-for-hire arrangement, and by the undervaluing of comic books for several decades. There’s no denying that many comic book creators’ grandchildren should now be rich.

But if you accept this book’s thesis that Martin Goodman didn’t give a crap about content, yet was a hoarder and re-purposer of any intellectual property that he possessed – anything that might sell a few thousand more bundles of paper next month – then this is largely a story of two worlds colliding at a very human level. A man built a widget factory that accidentally produced some Stradivarius violins. He didn’t really understand violins, but he understood that they were his, and that they had value.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
ABC talks to Mad magazine’s Al Jaffee. Tom Chesek talks to Drew Friedman. The Vermont Digger talks to New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren. Alex Dueben talks to Isabel Greenberg. Paul Gravett talks to Hungarian cartoonist András Baranyai. Ideas Tap talks to Dave McKean about the covers he created for Sandman (via).

Here’s Kim Deitch interviewed by Caitlin McGurk at CAKE (via):



—Reviews & Commentary.
Matt Madden ponders the comics seen in François Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451. Vanessa Davis talks about Maus. Ada Palmer writes about manga’s place in the weird horror tradition. J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half-Century War.

—Funnies. Alan Gardner has posted rare images of some of Bill Watterson’s high school cartoons. 13th Dimension looks at John Lennon as a cartoonist.

—Process.
Jessica Abel has written posts discussing how she uses InDesign and Scrivener to help her make comics.

 

Donesville

Welcome to the short week. As per usual, Joe McCulloch has your weekly need-t0-knows, this week with a side dish of recent French language manga releases.

Elsewhere:

Chester Brown has been named a Canadian who changed the world. Like.

Variety talks French comics film/TV adaptations.

Take a look at these pristine Gasoline Alley proofs for sale.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Joe Casey.

This is interesting. It’s the first time in over a decade that one of the big two auction houses has gotten involved in comic book art.

The UK’s Thought Bubble comics festival announced its 2014 preliminary line-up.

The great NYC gallerist Hudson passed away last week. He is notable in comics circles for having been one of the first in the U.S. to exhibit the work of Tom of Finland consistently, and was definitely the first to show Gengoroh Tagame.

Mr. Velcro.

 

Slush

We’re closing out the week with Joe McCulloch’s massive tour de force review of UK indie anthology Mould Map 3, which gathers work by cartoonists such as Sammy Harkham, Simon Hanselmann, Aidan Koch, Blaise Larmee, and co-editor Leon Sandler, among many others. Here’s an excerpt:

The terror of Mould Map 3, then, is the terror of options: of the necessity of change, and the uncertainty behind anyone’s ability to guide it. I am reminded again of a Sammy Harkham anthology, this time 2011’s Kramers Ergot 8, a book which all but palpably shuddered with anxiety and despair, surveying the path of comics with a regret born sadly of wisdom, and seeking, futilely, to imagine a future that won’t merely reprise the ills of the past. It was comprehensively different from prior installments of that series, down to its physical characteristics: smaller in size; fewer artists; longer pieces.

The same is true for this book. Vols. 1 & 2 of Mould Map (“culture as the physical residue of civilisation and a virally exploding population,” per Frost) were 12- and 20-page pamphlets, 11.75” x 16.5” both, allowing no contributor more than two pages to deliver an image, a story fragment, a revelatory semi-fossil; anything. Editors Frost & Sadler drew inspiration from the zines and anthologies of Hendrik Hegray & Jonas Delaborde: Nazi Knife and False Flag, books of images which stood apart from the gnarled Gallic tradition of Le Dernier Cri by swapping out screen printing and other feats of hand-design for low-fidelity monochrome reproductions of color photographs and drawings that seemed less apocalyptic than severely drowsy. Frost & Sadler brought in heavy color as a unifying factor — Mould Map 2 remains among the *loudest* comics I own — but retained a scattered, enigmatic quality: easily dismissible, to be blunt, for those eager to have stories enunciated by their pictures.

Mould Map 3, however, adopts not the production characteristics of Kramers Ergot, or Nazi Knife, or LDC’s pus-smeared Hopital Brut, but a properly mainstream Japanese art book: 8.25” x 11.75”, with heavy, glossy paper throughout (some exceptions apply). If you’ve ever bought anything luxurious from UDON Entertainment, particularly the anime/manga/gaming production art-flavored anthologies Robot or APPLE, you’ve basically seen Frost’s & Sadler’s approach here; even the 60 USD-ish suggested cover price is competitive with most of what you’ll find on the applicable shelves of your local Kinokuniya. Where Mould Map 3 departs is in periodically inserting smaller booklets into the larger book — a Le Dernier Cri trademark — and marshaling all manner of attentive care after the reproduction of wildly varying visual approaches: some burning and fluorescent, others photographic, or heavy with slime.

Elsewhere:

—News. Irwin Hasen, Sheldon Moldoff, and Orrin C. Evans have been selected for the Eisner Hall of Fame, and the Eisners have announced the nominees and opened online voting for the next round. At Publishers Weekly, Brigid Alverson reports on an apparently declining manga market in France.

—Interviews. CBR talks to the founder of IDW, Ted Adams, on the 15th anniversary of his company. Bookworm’s Michael Silverblatt speaks to Jaime Hernandez (and novelist Junot Diaz). The Hundreds talks to Night Business creator Ben Marra. Kiel Phegley interviews Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson about the company’s stated intention to expand their creator-owned lineup. In the process, Phegley calls Dark Horse the “original home of creator-owned comics”, which seems to ignore a lot of history before the company, but any emphasis on creator ownership is a good one.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Matt Fraction breaks down a Miller/Mazzucchelli issue of Daredevil. Harry Backlund reports on Art Spiegelman’s Wordless! stage show in Chicago for the online Paris Review.

 

Relax

Frank’s back from France with a full report on all-things Frank and France and such matters.

Elsewhere in our little confined internet space:

Mike Dawson (come back to us, Mike) and Alex Robinson posted their final Ink Panthers episode.

Alex Dueben interviews Jed McGowan.

Mike Vosburg remembers working with Howard Chaykin.

This New Yorker article about Amazon.com is a must-read for those of us that are in the book business.

Comics Alliance announced the results of its Reader Choice Awards.

And hey, Modesty Blaise!

 

 

 

Brilliant Disguise

Today we introduce new contributor Greg Hunter and his review of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Death of the Family, in which he finds the critical response to the comic nearly as disturbing as the book itself:

Since at least Fredric Wertham’s accusation that the Caped Crusader and his Boy Wonder were sleeping together, Batman stories have lent themselves to queer readings. In interviews at the start of Grant Morrison’s multi-title Batman run, the writer even teased “the gay Batman” as an aspect of the series he hoped to revive. Perhaps Snyder sought to explore this feature of the character with the best intentions. But Death of the Family is more reactionary than radical, and Snyder has been the beneficiary of low expectations in the comics press.

The culture of superhero comics encourages repetition; Marvel and DC creators recycle tropes, story structures, and approaches to characterization. Inasmuch as readers approach these comics with certain expectations—to see the last-minute return of a believed-dead hero, the dissolution and reunion of a superteam, etc—this isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s something of a social compact. But the traditionalist character of these comics means creators often recycle the comics’ worst elements too. And in the case of Snyder and Capullo’s Joker, the comics press has signed off on this recycling process.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews.
David Brothers has taken over the Inkstuds podcast for the month of February, and has already posted three interviews, with cartoonists Jimmy Robinson and Whitney Taylor, and the scholar Qiana Whitted. A podcast called the Artist as Entrepreneur has posted an interview with publisher Annie Koyama.

—Reviews & Commentary. Impossible Books has a fun mini-appreciation of Laura Park. Bob Heer reviews the new collection of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s BoJeffries Saga.

—Funnies.
The New Yorker has a longish preview of Jules Feiffer’s upcoming graphic novel, Kill My Mother. This Noelle Stevenson comic on Tumblr about why she doesn’t like to shop at comics stores has struck a nerve. Evan Dorkin celebrates the comics press.

—News. Garry Trudeau is going on another Doonesbury hiatus, this time to work on his television show Alpha House. Tom Spurgeon has an obituary of Cambodian cartoonist Ung Bun Heang. Hic & Hoc has announced its 2014 lineup. The Autoptic Festival has announced its 2015 date.

—A/V. Charles Schulz gave a speech at UCLA in 1971 (via):

And here is the awards ceremony from this year’s Angoulême. American comics awards aren’t like this. Several English-language creators pop up, including presenter Dash Shaw, whose Tumblr I found this at.

 

Going Dark

It’s a new week of comics and Joe McCulloch will tell you about them, along with other things!

On the internet place:

Missed this, or maybe it’s new: A crowd-sourced list of friendly comic book stores. And a story of an unfriendly comic book store.

There’s a lot to look at in this photo of Charles Burns’ drawing table.

Roz Chast has updated her website, including these awesome textiles.

Jay Lynch pointed out this original art written by Lynch and Art Spiegelman.

A fascinating piece on early anime by Fred Patten.

 

 

 

Words and Pictures

Today, we present the great comics historian R. C. Harvey, and his obituary for the late Wee Pals creator, Morrie Turner. Here’s an excerpt:

Morrie met Charles Schulz at a gathering of California cartoonists, and they became friends. The civil rights movement was gathering momentum with sit-ins and marches in the South, and once while they were having lunch, Morrie asked Schulz why he didn’t have any black kids in Peanuts, and Schulz told Morrie he should create his own.

“I couldn’t participate in the marches in the South, and I felt I should,” Morrie later told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was working and had a wife and kid. So I decided I would have my say with my pen.”

Right about then, Dick Gregory, comedian cum civil rights activist, came along and gave Morrie another nudge.

In 1962, Gregory had published a memoir, From the Back of the Bus, about his crusading adventures. (“Segregation is not all bad. Ever hear of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?”) The comedian was working on a continuation of this literary venture, a more overt autobiography, which in 1964 he would entitle Nigger (so that every time his mother hears the word, Gregory explained, she’d know her son’s book was being discussed and promoted). And a friend brought Gregory around to Morrie’s place to meet the cartoonist. The two spent the day “rapping” (as Morrie put it), and Gregory suggested that Morrie illustrate his book with cartoons and comic strips.

“It wasn’t the kind of cartoon that I was drawing then,” Morrie remembered when I talked at length with him last spring. “At the time,” he said, “I was doing all right with industrial cartoons. They weren’t making a lot of money, but I was having a lot of fun. Gregory wanted me to do some cartoons that related to black people, and I liked the idea because it was me. All the drawings and cartoons I’d done up to that point were not really me. They were something foreign to me. I would create cartoons about golf, but I knew nothing about golf. Never played the game at all. And medical cartoons, doctors, dentists—not me.”

The cartoons Morrie did for black magazines and newspapers like the Chicago Defender were more to his liking. “Some were very close to being editorial cartoons—very close,” Morrie said, “—but they were not. They were humorous, funny, and then I realized they were funny because they were editorial cartoons.”

But they still weren’t Morrie. Gregory’s proposal, which eventually came to nothing, started Morrie thinking. And just about then, Charlie Brown appeared in a Civil War cap. Morrie pondered: what if Charlie Brown were Black? And what if the cap were a Confederate cap? “Now that,” wrote Tom Carter in the Cartoon Club Newsletter, “was indeed a laugh—a child so naive he could sweep away generations of ill will with one innocent, ironic gesture.”


Elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
Nicholas Theisen has an interesting academic response to Hannah Miodrag’s Comics and Language. Dan Kois writes at length about Michel Rabagliati’s Paul comics. Bob Heer talks about Preacher, Omaha the Cat Dancer, Stokoe’s Godzilla, and Tom Gauld. Christopher Stigliano on Charles Rodrigues’s Ray and Joe. Shea Hennum reviews Dash Shaw’s New Jobs.

—News. Tom Spurgeon reports that DC no longer retains the media rights to Preacher, for which there was just announced a major television adaptation. He also has published his own Morrie Turner obituary. The Billy Ireland library has announced two big shows starting next month, featuring original art by Bill Watterson and Richard Thompson. Slate and CCS have announced the nominations to their annual Cartoonist Studio Prize. Brian Cremins reports back from a Samuel R. Delany appearance supporting Bread & Wine, the graphic memoir he created with Mia Wolff.

—Misc. Chris Ware was among the writers the New York Times asked to share the literature that taught them bout love. Occasional TCJ contributor Sean Michael Robinson got involved in a complicated, protracted discussion on a Cerebus printing snafu.

 

Moving Day

Today on the site:

Rob Clough on Matthew Thurber’s INFOMANIACS, which was my very last book via PictureBox.

Matthew Thurber’s INFOMANIACS is my choice for best comic of 2013. Thurber is perhaps the funniest cartoonist working today, though in more of a narrative sense rather than the gag-built work of cartoonists like Michael Kupperman, Lisa Hanawalt and Sam Henderson. That said, INFOMANIACS has a looser and sillier structure than his previous book, 1-800-MICE. The latter book, originally published in comics form, had the narrative structure of a serial, with multiple and intersecting plots that were pulled together ever tighter as the story went along. INFOMANIACS begins as a mostly improvised web comic, and its page-to-page structure reveals how Thurber tries to end each page or every couple of pages with a definitive gag and punchline. Thurber uses visual gags to some degree (simply the way he draws his characters is amusing), but he loves diving into puns, bon mots, and clever references that still manage to resonate with the story’s themes. Both books use deadpan descriptions of absurd ideas rooted in science and medicine. And while INFOMANIACS has the feel of a shaggy dog story (it doesn’t so much end as it just stops), it nevertheless gives a thorough airing of all the various aesthetic, cultural and political critiques that resonate throughout Thurber’s work.

Elsewhere:

Ng Suat Tong brings us the best online comics criticism of 2013.

Henriette Valium comics in Macedonian via Last Gasp.

Classic Mad covers by Norman Mingo.

Preacher is coming to television with a good team behind it.

Finally, Matt Madden and Jessica Abel’s photos from Angouleme.